Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Thu, Nov 1st, 2018

Is the Bombing of Yemen about to End?

The fallout from the Saudi murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in Istanbul has far-reaching consequences. Not only did the investment fair of Davos in the Desert see some major deserters, but Bin Salman actually said something nice about Qatar.  Coverage of the Kashoggi affair has at long last also opened up major media coverage of the Saudi role in the war in Yemen, including a New York Times article on “The Tragedy of Saudi Arabia’s War.”  Note that this is a Saudi war, just as Kashoggi was a Saudi murder.

Now there is a glimmer of hope as the United States is finally calling for an immediate end to the war.  On Tuesday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear at last: “The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Subsequently, Coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis also weighed in: “The longer-term solution, and by longer-term, I mean 30 days from now, we want to see everybody sitting around the table, based on a ceasefire, based on a pullback from the border, and then based on ceasing dropping of bombs, that will permit the [U.N.] special envoy — Martin Griffiths, who’s very good, he knows what he’s doing — to get them together in Sweden and end this war.”

This call for an end to the war is diplomatically cautious, calling on the Huthis to stop their missile attacks (which are a nuisance rather than a real threat to the Saudis) first, and limiting the coalition’s culpability to “populated areas,” as opposed to all civilian casualties and all bombing. But it does give the Saudis a face-saving exit for the first time. The fact is that if the U.S. pulled out all of its logistical support, the war would be over immediately. The idea that simply sending billions of dollars worth of military hardware to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf ensures the local ability to properly use them, and especially to do so with some ethical standards, is absurd. In an ironic twist, the past U.S. dependence on Saudi oil has switched with Saudi dependence on American military expertise. 

Better late than never is an old saying that is hard to complain about.  But this call is far too late for the thousands of Yemenis who have died, the million-plus cholera victims and the current worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Human rights organizations, including virtually all United Nations organizations apart from the pathetic Security Council (which authorized the tragedy in the first place), have been warning about the loss of life and war crimes on all sides since the war started.  Over six months ago it was known that Yemen had a million cases of cholera, directly related to the breakdown of services due to the war.  Horrific bombings of funerals and school busses have passed by with no action whatsoever. The fact that it has taken over three years for Western support of the Saudi war on Yemen to finally have a wake-up call is an indictment of these same powers as co-conspirators in the destruction of Yemen.

Ending the bombing is an important first step. It is abundantly clear by now that bombing does not win a war and it surely does not win the hearts and minds of the people who are targets. The royal fools in Riyadh who thought their “Decisive Storm” would be over in a matter of days (like the 6-Day war of Israel) were wrong. This is no different than the plot to kill and dismember Kashoggi in a bugged consulate. The House of Saud, one of the bloodiest and most regressive regimes in the world, has come face to face with the truth of Ibn Khaldun’s model of dynasty death some six centuries ago. Here is what Ibn Khaldun said: 

“Energy gives way to indolence, and wickedness, deceit, cunning and trickery are developed by fear of physical violence. These tendencies soon become ingrained habits, corrupting the human quality which men acquire through social intercourse and which consists of manliness and the ability to defend oneself and one’s household. Such men become dependent on others for protection; their souls even become too lazy to acquire virtue or moral beauty.”

The inevitable decay of those who gain and maintain power is on full display in the Saudi stable of royal yachts, palaces, private jets, bloated bank accounts that the princes of the regime have assembled.

If the bombing does end soon, it will only be the beginning. The blockade of food and medical supplies must stop as well. Yemenis must be allowed to decide on their own future rather than re-installing a puppet that no one in Yemen wants or becoming a proxy pawn in the Saudi conflict with Iran. The level of destruction will require massive amounts of foreign aid, but there is no doubt that it will unfortunately come with political strings attached. The road to recover will be incredibly difficult, given the damage on all aspects of Yemeni society and the proliferation of sectarian violence.  But at least the skies will be clear of modern-day fire and brimstone.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.